Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Power of "Can"

Sometimes we forget the power of our words. This morning on the radio I heard a story about a boy with a learning disability--he couldn't listen to someone speak and comprehend very well--but he could read and understand perfectly. This boy was verbally tested by his school and placed in "special education" classes where he continued to do very poorly....until his freshman year in high school. During that year, a substitute teacher noticed something special about him and began to test him in different ways than anyone had before. After a series of tests administered in writing rather than verbally she said to him "I believe you are just as gifted as the other kids--you don't need to be in these classes. Why are you still in special ed?"

As a result of her confidence in him, the boy went back to his teachers and asked to be retested using written formats. He passed with flying colors and re-entered the primary classes at his high school. He graduated with straight A's, went on to receive a PhD, and is now a professor of psychology at a university.

The power of words is astounding. I wrote a brief essay once for NPR's "This I Believe" essay series called "I am a Dancer," where I describe how one sentence affected my perception of what I could do for nearly 2 decades.

I know my mom would never remember this, because she encouraged me to try ballet and gymnastics as a child, but when I was a little girl I overheard someone at church tell her that I didn't have the right "body type" for ballet. Essentially, I was too chubby. Overhearing that one sentence, spoken not out of spite I'm sure, but just an offhand statement that I am certain that mother didn't even know I overheard, resulted in years of an overwhelming belief that I "couldn't dance."

I could play music, I could march in a band--all things that require rhythm--but I "couldn't dance." For some reason that was a forbidden world to me all because of the power of words. Then one day words unlocked a magic door... My freshman year in college I had a roommate who loved to dance... One day she looked at me and said "come on, get up and dance with me!" I said to her "But I can't dance!" She laughed and said "Yes you can! I'll show you how! Anyone can dance!" Her words, "yes you can," opened up a whole realm of art previously closed to me.

In the years since I have taken lessons in ballroom, salsa, swing, contra dance, and Middle Eastern dance and have taught lessons in Middle Eastern dance and have led worship dance programsin church. I've danced on stage in at least 7 states. I'm no star, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know one thing--I CAN dance.

Praise dance on Stage with the Alexandria Dancers (I'm on the front left)
Have you spoken words of life into your sponsored children lately? Have you told them they CAN defeat poverty? Have you told them they ARE princes and princesses, destined for the kingdom?

This I Believe--these children are VALUABLE to Christ Jesus. They CAN make a difference in their families, communities, and world! Let's speak hope into their lives today!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Using God's Gifts to Give Back

I'm so excited about today's blog post. Recently, I posed a question to sponsors on the OurCompassion forum asking how advocates, sponsors, and other compassionate people are using their creativity to raise money to meet their Compassion goals.

I was STUNNED by the many and varied ways that sponsors around the globe are using not only their unique talents, but also their sheer ingenuity to afford sponsored children and contribute to Compassion's other, equally important funds (for example, child survival, clean water initiatives, at-risk children, and malaria prevention).

The respondents graciously allowed me to share the ways they creatively fund raise on my blog, and I hope that by sharing our stories with you I will not only raise awareness for their stores, products, and efforts, but also spur you into ACTION using your own creative talents for Christ!

Without further adieu....

1.Donating proceeds from sales

There are many amazing people out there who are donating all or a portion of the proceeds from items they make and sell to Compassion.

Lizzie, a teenager and absolutely amazing role model, has an ETSY shop called where 100 percent of the net profit is donated to either the child survival program or is used pay for child sponsorships. Lizzie's shop features a wide variety of handmade items, from sponsor bracelets (featuring beads from the countries where sponsored children live) to crochet items.
Lizzie's Sponsor Bracelets for Compassion
Naomi, a fabulous photographer in Sacramento, California (whose photographs are so touching they brought tears to my eyes) donates a minimum of 20% of the gross of all sales to Compassion.
Naomi also hosts Mother and Child mini-portrait sessions to benefit the Child Survival Program.

Katie, operator of Churchill Crafts - beautiful baby gift items and handmade accessories, dedicates 100% of profits from her etsy store to Compassion sponsorships, child and family gifts, and birthday gifts for her sponsor and correspondence children.
Fun and Fabulous baby items from Churchill Crafts
Jennifer N operates Shop with Compassion on Etsy - ultra creative and unique nursery book storage slings in gorgeous modern fabrics-- and  100% of her profits go towards sponsorships and child and family gifts, along with trips to visit her sponsored children via Compassion.
Awesome Nursery Book Storage from Shop with Compassion
Amanda Watts. has a facebook business, Watts Knots and Knicknacks (great name!) where she sells hats, bows, headbands, and other items. Portions of her sales go towards child sponsorships.
Custom headband from Watts Knots and Knicknacks
Donna Kirckof draws members of her side-saddle forum on their horses at no cost with the no-obligation request of a compassion donation.

Michelle from Blogging From the Boonies has created watercolor paintings in exchange for $20 donations to Compassion.

Kayla tie-dyes T-shirts and sells them to raise funds for sponsorship.

And, finally, I operate an online ETSY store, Conspiracy of Love, where I sell handmade jewelry. 100% of my proceeds go to Compassion child survival program and  at-risk children's funds. I also make soaps and lotion bars for family and friends in exchange for donations.
Handmade jewelry from Conspiracy of Love

2. Write a book

Okay, so probably most of us can't do this... at least I know I can't. And I guess technically this is part of the list above, but I was so excited by this sponsor's contribution I felt it needed it's own category. Nineteen-year-old author Sydney Lorraine Danielle (yes, you heard me, 19 - crazy, right??) has just finished a young-adult fantasy adventure titled "This Deadly Quest," which will be available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon beginning August 2013. 100% of proceeds will be used for child sponsorships and birthday gifts. Pre-orders can be arranged via, Sydney's website is

3. Hosting Yard Sales

Many sponsors have hosted yard sales to benefit Compassion. I hosted one with another sponsor not long ago, myself, and was amazed at how much we were able to donate as a result. Yard sales are great, low-expense ways to rid your home of clutter and raise money for children who don't have the luxury of all that "stuff"!  Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor. The VERY least we can do is sell all the stuff we don't want and give the money to the poor, don't you think?

4. Host events

Lizzie, the same Lizzie mentioned above, rides her bicycle and encourages others to hold bika-a-thons to fund child sponsorships. You can support Lizzie's goal of reaching $1,000 through bicycling at
Lizzie cycling for Compassion
Casey, a skin care specialist, will be demonstrating "Water for Life" units in her spa studio and encouraging customers to contribute to the clean water fund at Compassion.

Michelle from Blogging From the Boonies hosted a (soggy) walk for Waters for Life where she was able to raise enough money for 26 water filters! See her account on her blog, here Michelle has also participated with her family in "One Meal One Day" where you donate the cost of skipped meals to Compassion. Read her account here:

5. Sell your blood

Okay, really your plasma. Honestly, I had never thought about selling plasma for Compassion. It would never have occurred to me. I remember friends in college who sold plasma for a little extra cash, but what a sacrifice to sell your own plasma for the benefit of Compassion! That's what Emily at OurCompassion did to raise money for sponsorships while she was in graduate school. The really cool thing is you're actually doing something good times're providing much-needed plasma AND donating money to those who really need it!

SO there you have it... I know there are a TON more wonderful examples out there, and I WHOLEHEARTEDLY thank those who sent me their creative fundraising ideas.

I hope you'll take this opportunity to visit the links I've posted, and to support the vendors listed above. Please consider them for Christmas, Birthday, Wedding, and Shower gifts this year to help them in their efforts to reach out to children in need! I also hope you'll be moved to use your own skills for God's honor! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Follow Compassion to Nicaragua!

Wow, I have been so very busy that I've fallen behind a bit, I'm afraid! I have so many things to share in upcoming posts, including a sneak peak of an article I'm working on for the Compassion Advocate magazine discussing all the AMAZING ways Compassion sponsors are creating opportunities to raise money for children in poverty. I'm SO in awe of the wonderful things God is doing through people when they put their trust and creativity in His hands!

Today, however, is all about the work that a group of bloggers is doing on the ground in Nicaragua. Four of Compassion's staff bloggers are visiting the country and blogging daily about what they experience there in order to help share the ministry of Compassion. I hope that you'll join me in supporting them by following their posts and praying for them as they tour the country.

The blog post by LifeInGraceblog author Edie Wadsworth particularly touched me. Her vivid descriptions of a visit to a dump on day one, and her photographs of children sifting through layers of rubble to find toys to play with and items to sell left me considering the items I casually toss in the trash at home; the cavalier attitude I have when I pick up some unnecessary item at Target or Walmart.

And then I compare the graciousness of the residents eeking out a living in this trash heap--their willingness to invite in the bloggers from Compassion with an open heart--with my own hesitation to open my doors to my precious friends and family if the laundry is piled up or the dishes aren't done.

Sometimes priorities get all mixed up. Sometimes, though I don't want to admit it, I'm more concerned about what people will think about me based on the condition of my home, my landscaping, whatever meal I offer or some skill I perform instead of being concerned about what people think about the condition of my heart and my relationship with Jesus based on my actions.

When I take my eyes off of myself and focus my eyes on the people around me-the people who love me, the people I love, the people in this world who are desperately waiting for a word of peace and encouragement...then I find satisfaction. There I find Grace. There I find hope, mercy, and love. There I find Jesus.

Please pray for our bloggers in Nicaragua this week, and please consider sponsoring a child for only $38 a month. You can make such a difference in the life of a child.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scent with Love

So, as is true to my "can't leave well enough alone" nature, I'm dabbling in yet another past time, which is aromatherapy. Actually, I've been interested in essential oils for almost 2 decades, ever since I majored in botany in college and took some courses focused on the human uses of medicinal plants, and on the phytochemicals in plants that give them their various aromatic and medicinal properties. I've also dabbled in homemade soap and lotion-making over the course of the last decade and the use of essential oils in those crafts, so I suppose this really isn't all that new, after all, just a resurgence of an interest.

So I'm rambling on about this interest in fragrance, and I'm sure you're wondering what that has to do with sponsoring children through Compassion. It occurred to me as I have been accumulating the supplies to make some scented necklaces, handmade soap, and handmade lotion bars for my Compassion ETSY store that certain fragrances instill an immediate sense of peace in me. For me, patchouli is a scent that is forever relaxing because I associate it with carefree college years (my husband, on the other hand, detests it). I also love the scent of suntan lotion because I recall summers on the beach in Florida with my family. The smell of cinnamon and oranges reminds me of Christmas, while the sweet, woodsy smell of Balsam Fir, quite possibly my favorite smell in the entire world, reminds me of quite walks in the woods on a warm day, no worries, and a deep connection to nature and to God.

If fragrance evokes such warm, deep memories (and countless research proves it does), then why not use fragrance to scent our sponsored child's world? No doubt our sponsored kids are surrounded by pungent scents of their own that evoke memories, hopes, dreams... but what if we introduce our own scent story to our kids, sending a little piece of scent that they associate with love, with hope, with uplifting strength? Forevermore they will associate that with a sense of well-being, of being cared for and loved. What a special gift, all in an aroma! to do that when we can only send paper? Here's my plan, and maybe you'll want to do it, too.  I am going to spend some time thinking about what scent describes me. I am going to play around with my essential oils (maybe you have a perfume you love to wear, or maybe the warm smell of cinnamon or vanilla extract makes you swoon), and when I find just the "right" scent, I'm going to stick a cotton ball with several drops of this oil in a plastic bag with my writing paper, stickers, bookmarks, etc.  Leave the paper in the bag for a while and...voila! You have lightly scented paper that will waft out when your child opens the bag.

I'll explain in the letter that I've scented the paper with my favorite scent, one that fills me with hope. Maybe for you it would be the frankincense and myrrh gifted to Jesus on his birthday, or pungent peppermint. Maybe soothing lavender or uplifting orange.

Anyway, I think it's a pretty neat idea to send a fragrant message of hope to our kids in another place. And who knows--maybe the older kids will return the favor by scenting their paper with the spicy fragrance of India or the Jasmine air of Thailand!

Happy Monday!

PS... Look for my scented necklaces on my Compassion ETSY store next week, and soaps and lotions late summer!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Looking for Great Goodies for your Kids?? Dover has 70% Off Right Now!!!

I'm always looking for great stuff to send my Compassion kids. Dover is one of my very favorite companies (I feature a lot of their free samples in my downloadable sponsor packets), and right now they have a 70% off sale going on!

I really encourage you to check it out--I was able to snag a ton of sticker books for just 45 cents each--you can't even get that at the dollar store!  Stock up for Christmas and Easter mailings now, because it'll be time to mail for Christmas in just a month or two (can you believe that???)! click on the 70% off sale banner!

Here are some examples of the great 45 cent goodies I picked up today!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Compassion Garage Sale!

Saturday came and went, along with our Compassion Garage Sale! I teamed up with a friend and fellow sponsor, Sarah, and her family to host a garage sale to raise money for Compassion. First, let me say that I'm horrible about taking photos so, sadly, I have none to show for our hard work. And second, garage sales really ARE hard work!! I started getting items ready for the sale several weeks ago, hauling things out of the attic, cleaning them off, going through drawers and toy boxes and closets and those dusty spots under the bed looking for all the trash-to-treasure items I could find.

What resulted was a driveway packed full of everything from baby clothes to bouncers and swings to household cleaning tools (unfortunately they requre operators, so they don't get used much in my house, hahaha). Sarah's family contributed a load of great stuff, too.

One thing I've noticed--if you advertise your sale to begin at 9, prepare for folks to show up at 8. We were still desperately gulping coffee and hanging signs and Compassion banners when the first buyers made an appearance at ten minutes to 8, and I thought we still had a hour before it started...silly me! Also, though the sale was set to end at 1, we had some folks shopping until 1:45, which was fine by me, because none of that stuff was coming back through the door to my house!!

In the end we ended up making about $330 for Compassion, which I thought was amazing considering my last yard sale barely netted $80! If you'd like to host a yard sale for Compassion, I do have a few simple tips to make things a bit more fun/easier...

1. Team up with another family--it was awesome to have fun company, and our kids were able to entertain each other--I was worried my toddler would get bored and whiney but he had so much fun he cried when it was over!

2. Set up as much as you can the night before, then just move the whole set-up table out to your driveway the next morning.

3. Advertise-ALOT. I wish I had advertised more.

4. Set up a Goodwill truck to pick up stuff when your sale is over. We did not and I desperately wish we had. Now I have to do drop offs today!

5. Serve snacks. I picked up some donut holes and cookies on sale at the grocery store and had water available for people. This made a big impression and people were really grateful-it was a very hot day.

I'm so thrilled we were able to clear out some items we don't use any more and help Compassion at the same time!! The money will go to the at-risk children fun and the child survival programs fund.